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What is a Mindful Leader?

Mindful Leaders align people around shared missions and values with clarity, communicate with compassion, empower team members to reach higher potentials, all while fostering collaboration to sustain superior outcomes. Sounds like the kind of leader you want to be. Keep reading to learn why more Mindful leaders are needed and what it takes to be one.


The Rise of Mindful Leaders

Leadership is changing in recent years. According to Bill George, a senior fellow of Harvard Business School and former Medtronic chairman and CEO,

“The hierarchical, directive leadership style so prevalent in the past century is fading fast in favor of today’s collaborative leaders, who believe in distributed leadership at all levels. The old notion of leaders as the smartest guys in the room—as Enron CEO Jeff Skilling typified—has been replaced by leaders with high levels of emotional intelligence (EQ).”

George, Bill. Discover Your True North (p. 3). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

Many leaders, managers, and employees agree with this trend. According to a survey conducted by the Harvard Business Review, 6 of the top 8 skills with the greatest impact on a leader’s success were EQ-related, only 2 were IQ-related:

  1. Inspire and motivate others
  2. Display high integrity and honesty
  3. Solve problems and analyze issues
  4. Drive for results
  5. Communicate powerfully and effectively
  6. Collaborate and promote teamwork
  7. Build relationships
  8. Displays technical or professional expertise


The great news is EQ-related skills are trainable through mindfulness practices and leaders practicing Mindfulness demonstrate higher emotional intelligence. As Bill George states, the old notion of leaders has been replaced by new style of leaders – Mindful Leaders.

Increasingly, corporations recognize the value of mindfulness in their leadership teams. Companies like Google and Aetna implemented mindfulness programs on a large scale and are reaping the rewards. They experience higher productivity, better decision-making, and reduced stress in employees.

Let’s take a closer look at three attributes so often found in a strong mindful leader.


Makes Sound Decisions

Personal biases, emotions, and judgments can easily influence any decision we make. Our feelings can fool us into believing we are making the right decision when in fact we are merely satisfy an emotional want or need. That’s not to say all sound decision making is done entirely rationally and without emotion.

A mindful leader makes decisions from the heart AND from the mind. He or she checks in to make sure emotions are regulated resulting in an appropriate assessment made on both.


Compassionate and Attentive Communication

There’s no doubt that words matter. What we choose to say and how we choose to say it has an enormous impact on those around us. The ability to communicate mindfully and with compassion is a tremendous asset for a leader to have. Being aware of emotions as we speak or respond to an email will help ensure the intended message is sent with honesty, clarity, and with the recipient in mind.

The same holds true as the Mindful Leader receives a communication from others. Being mindful allows you to listen without judgment, with patience, and without distraction. Mindful communication skills help leaders achieve more positive outcomes from their meetings, conversations, and correspondences because they are done with intention.


Empowers and Appreciate Others

Great Mindful Leaders trust and empower their team members. When a problem arises, a Mindful Leader resists the urge to jump in and fix the problem. Instead they will ask the right questions to allow the team members to come up with their own solutions.

If a negative outcome results from a poor decision, the Mindful Leader opts to use it as a learning opportunity instead of reprimanding the member involved. When people feel trusted and empowered to make decisions, their performance improves.

Recognizing good work and good decisions is equally important. People aren’t just motivated by their paycheck. They want to know their contributions are recognized and appreciated. Regular positive feedback can help to balance occasional negative feedback that needs to be given. A Mindful Leader improves employee engagement by ensuring that team members are properly recognized and appreciated.


Implementing a Mindfulness Leadership Practice

Developing a more mindful approach to leadership takes effort and commitment. An important step is to begin daily mindfulness meditation. You may be asking yourself “what is mindful meditation?” The answer is quite simple. It is a practice that trains your mind to focus on what is happening in the present moment: the emotions you are feeling, your thoughts, your environment, and your sensations.

When the mind is trained to focus on the present, distractions from outside and from within (like the endless barrage of thoughts, worries, and things to do often cluttering the mind) are set aside, giving space for clarity and awareness.

Becoming a Mindful Leader could be the beginning of the climb to your highest leadership potential. To discuss your own personal climb, schedule a free 30-minute consultation today!

Find more valuable articles like this one in our Mindful Leadership Guide.


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